Much attention has been given to the approximately 650,000 Arab refugees who fled Palestine in 1948 with the founding of the State of Israel. Very little attention has been given to the nearly one million Jewish refugees who fled ten Arab countries shortly before and after Israel's independence in 1948, of whom between 600,000 and 700,000 arrived as refugees in Israel because they had no other place to go. These Jews lived in the Middle East for thousands of years, since before it became the Arab world. Before they left, they were subject to increasing persecution by the Arab majority. When they left, they lost land and property confiscated by their host Arab governments equal to or greater than that lost by the Palestinian refugees.
The story of the Jews of Arab lands forms a major gap in most of the world's knowledge of the history of the Middle East, and thus of the world's understanding of events that occur there to this day. The resolution of refugee issues in the Middle East necessarily includes consideration of the suffering and losses of Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees. There can be no permanent solution to the wars between Arabs and Israelis without an understanding of the roots of Arab intolerance of a Jewish presence in the Middle East, and of how this intolerance leads to the lies, hatred, and endless grievance that make peace unattainable.
This paper traces the history of Jews of Arab lands from the origins of their communities to their migration to the State of Israel, where they and their descendants now form the majority of the Israeli population. It then discusses the implications of this history for the current refugee issue, the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict, and the hope for an ultimate peaceful coexistence of both peoples. (continue)
Peace with Realism